April showers bring May flowers. Here’s a taste of what’s blooming now in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Fire pink (Silene virginica) was blooming in Harrison Hills Park on May 12, above. When I went back to take its picture someone had picked most of it. 🙁
Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) is blooming in Schenley Park. At first you’ll notice it’s large three-part leaves, then you’ll see the pulpit where Jack lives. Some of the pulpits have stripes inside, some do not. Lift the lid to see.
Squawroot (Conopholis americana) isn’t green because it has no chlorophyll. Instead it coexists with oak trees, taking nourishment from their roots. Though it’s parasitic it rarely hurts the trees. This month squawroot’s “bear corn” flowers are everywhere in Schenley Park.
Squawroot, Schenley Park, 18 May 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
While Eurasian lilies-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) are blooming in my garden, these “false lilies of the valley” are blooming in the Laurel Highlands.
Maianthemum canadense are woodland plants that range from the Yukon to Newfoundland to northern Pennsylvania and in the Appalachian Mountains to Georgia. Their preference for cooler temperatures makes them abundant in Canada and they bloom in late May, hence their common name: Canada mayflower.
When you find a patch of Canada mayflowers you’ve found a single organism that spread through its rhizomes. The flowers do produce a few berries but the plant’s most successful propagation is underground.
Lilies-of-the-valley spread underground, too, and have taken over half my garden. The difference between the two is that lilies-of-the-valley are poisonous to wildlife while Canada mayflowers are not.
Watch for them blooming this month in southwestern Pennsylvania. It’s Mayflower time.
Spring has finally sprung! Here are just a few of the new flowers and leaves in western Pennsylvania.
The week began with spectacular saucer magnolia trees, above. Relentless cold temperatures had kept all the buds closed until they simultaneously burst into an aromatic pink display. Today the petals coat our sidewalks.
Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) is an early native wildflower that fades so quickly you have to be on the spot to see it bloom. Thursday morning at Enlow Fork we found the twin leaves open and the buds closed.
By early afternoon the flowers had been open for several hours. How soon they will fade!
Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia verna) is a later flower with a longer life on the stem. It’s just started blooming at Enlow Fork.
The trees are blooming, too. On Monday redbud (Cercis canadensis) flowers began to appear at Schenley Park …
A group of us went to Cedar Creek Park in Westmoreland County last Wednesday, April 11, to look for birds and blooms. Our highlights were six Louisiana waterthrushes and the largest spread of snow trillium we’d ever seen.
The morning was cold and cloudy so the bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) was still closed when we arrived. By the time we left it was fully open (above).
We were surprised to find snow trillium (Trillium nivale) at its peak in mid April. This flower usually blooms in February or March but cold weather must have held it back. So many blooms!
While we lingered near the snow trillium I noticed the smell of burning coal. The site is far from any source so I wondered where the smell came from.
Did I smell an old mine fire still burning? Has a new fire just begun? Do any of you know the answer?
(photos by Kate St. John)
p.s. Blooming News: I visited Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve on Friday April 13 where I found the flowers far behind Core Arboretum and even behind Cedar Creek. Yes, spring has been slow to come — and it’s trying to leave again. This phenology map from NPN shows our delayed spring in blue.
Last Sunday I saw Carolina spring beauties blooming at the Core Arboretum in Morgantown, West Virginia. They reminded me of this 2011 article, Two Kinds of Spring Beauty, though I didn’t see the second kind. (Click the link to read about both flowers.)
Flowers bloom earlier in Morgantown because it’s 60 miles south of us. Spring moves north 13 miles a day so we should expect our spring beauties to bloom today or tomorrow. And they will because of our temporarily hot weather.
If you’re near Morgantown, the Core Arboretum offers wildflower walks on three Sundays in April every year. The first walk was last Sunday but you still have time to join naturalists from West Virginia University at 2pm on April 15 and April 22 to see what’s blooming. Click here for directions.
Since then Nature did a 180-degree turn and handed us a series of cold snaps capped by snow. Our wildflowers have not bloomed yet. Last year they were two to three weeks early and had gone to seed by the end of March.
Fortunately NPN tracks first blooms as well, using lilacs as the marker plant.(*) On the map below you can see the Southeast bloomed 20 days early.
But we aren’t on the bloom map yet.
When will our wildflowers bloom? We’ll have to wait and see.
* From the USA NPN website: These models were constructed using historical observations of the timing of first leaf and first bloom in a cloned lilac cultivar (Syringa x chinensis’Red Rothomagensis’) and two cloned honeysuckle cultivars (Lonicera tatarica ‘Arnold Red’ and L. korolkowii ‘Zabelii’).
Did you know the shamrock used to be easy find in suburbia, but now it’s not?
The shamrock is one of two species: lesser clover (Trifolium dubium) or white clover (Trifolium repens). We don’t have much lesser clover in the U.S. but we used to have lots of white clover. You could find it in any lawn.
White clover was so common that as a child I searched our lawn for lucky four leaf clovers and found them!
With all these advantages, what happened?
Broad-leaf weed killers came into use. Intended to kill dandelions, English plantain, etc. these chemicals kill white clover, too. Ever since the weed killers took over white clover hasn’t been mixed with grass seed. Not for a very long time.
Good luck finding a four-leaf clover today.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the images to see the originals)